Elections

Trump-Endorsed Tim Michels Defeats Pence-Backed Rebecca Kleefisch In Wisconsin Gubernatorial Primary

(Photos by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Michael Ginsberg Congressional Reporter
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Businessman Tim Michels defeated Former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch Tuesday to win the Republican nomination for Wisconsin’s upcoming gubernatorial election.

With more than 95% of votes counted, according to The New York Times, Michels received 47% of the vote, while Kleefisch garnered 42%. State Rep. Timothy Ramthun finished third with 6%.

Several elections analysts, including The Associated Press, called the race just before midnight Eastern time.

The businessman will now face incumbent Democrat Tony Evers in November. Evers defeated Walker and Kleefisch in 2018 during his first run for governor by fewer than 30,000 votes. (RELATED: Trump Reacts To Pence Potentially Running In 2024)

Michels, a 2004 Senate candidate who runs his family’s construction company, received an endorsement from former President Donald Trump in June. The businessman also rallied with the former president in Waukesha the Friday before the election, an event that also featured Derrick Van Orden, the GOP nominee in Wisconsin’s Third District, and two candidates for the Wisconsin legislature.

“Now you have to understand who Tim is … he builds massive tunnels, infrastructure, he bores through earth, he bores through mountains,” Trump said at the rally. “He’s big time.”

Kleefisch, who served as lieutenant governor to Scott Walker from 2011-19, received former Vice President Mike Pence’s endorsement in late July, calling her “the only candidate that will deliver a stronger and more prosperous Wisconsin.”

In addition to Pence, Kleefisch sported a bevy of endorsements from prominent Republican politicians and figures, including Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, and former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Polls released after Trump’s endorsement showed Kleefisch and Michels effectively tied. An early August Emerson University survey of 900 likely Republican primary voters found the two within the margin of error, as did a poll of 1092 likely GOP primary voters released the day of the race by The Trafalgar Group.

The Wisconsin gubernatorial race was one of several in which Trump and Pence endorsed opposing candidates. Pence-endorsed incumbent Gov. Brian Kemp defeated Trump-supported David Perdue in Georgia, while Trump-endorsed Kari Lake triumphed over Pence-backed Karrin Taylor Robson in Arizona.